For more than 10 years Ukrainian circus studio Jin Roh has been creating unique world-class shows and touring all over the world. Although the group is based in Kherson, they rarely stay home for long periods of time due to a high demand for their shows abroad. The studio director Roman Vashchenko puts all of himself into the studio and dreams that one day they will have more performances at home in Ukraine.
The story of Jin Roh began with a fire-show, which was later mixed with choreographic elements, circus tricks, and acrobatics. “I`ve always believed that the circus would have a unique nature: without the traditional animals or clowns”, – the director points out. In terms of genre Roman defines Jin Roh as a circus theatre and variety show. The name Jin Roh means superpower since the artists always set superhuman standards in their work, going above and beyond to deliver a good show. The logo of the project is the Slavic spiral, which symbolizes the unification of several elements into one creative stream.
We do crazy things for our art. While everyone else in Ukraine relaxes and celebrates on Sundays, we’re at work from 9AM. Our cast is made up of people who are ready to sacrifice their free time in order to be at rehearsals.
On the 28th of October 2018, Jin Roh turned 10 years old. Over the past decade, the circus has performed in more than 50 countries, and visited every continent so far except for continental Africa. Jin Roh`s performances gather good audiences in Europe and America, where the market for circus performances is way more developed. Their show “Revolution” toured a great number of Arabic countries. Although their shows are in English, the circus seeks to find a balance between representing national and international cultures in their art. They cooperate with a variety of well-known Ukrainian musicians, like The Hardkiss, and use their music in the shows.
Over the last year the biggest number of shows have taken place in China and Germany:
— In Germany, attending a show with friends and family is as common a pastime as going to the café is for us. Sometimes we even recognize audience members we have already seen at our shows before.
Every performance in Ukraine is sold out. From time to time actors also give charity performances in their native Tavria. They held a free public performance of the show “A Conversation with the Sky” for the children in their hometown Kherson.
Nevertheless, Jin Roh remains a business project. The average amount needed to cover the technical and logistic expenses of each show reaches up to 5 thousand dollars. Consequently, their shows are aimed at the international stage, due to cost-effectiveness. As actors admit, it is extremely challenging to lead such a touring lifestyle:
— One of our artists counted up 75 flights over the last 2 years. It is very exciting and exhausting at the same time.
Roman knows what it’s like to be homesick due to the constant trips he’s been embarking on since childhood. His father is a military pilot and their family moved around a lot until they settled down in Kherson. Roman was 5 years old back then. Touring abroad now always makes him a little homesick:
— You spend all month walking and riding along beautiful parks and good roads in a city abroad and then all of a sudden you start craving to get back home, to your strange and imperfect Kherson. You yearn to see the parks in Kherson again, to walk along the not as clean but uniquely beautiful Dnipro river. That`s when you really feel this sense of national identity.
Regardless of a higher potential for profit that Jin Roh has abroad, the actors are eager to perform at home more:
I dream about finally being able to regularly perform in Ukraine. The fact that only 10% of our actual performances are given in Ukraine doesn`t feel very ideal.
Jin Roh, currently one of the biggest circus studios in Ukraine, employs around 300 people, more than 100 of which are experienced actors and the rest – students from acrobatic and dance schools. Almost all of them are from Kherson, while some are from Kyiv and Bila Tserkva.
Most of the cast come from professional athletic backgrounds – acrobatics and gymnastics. As Roman mentions, these days in Ukraine a circus career is more lucrative and stable than a career in sports. It’s a more dependable field with a more decent wage for professionals. The career of a circus artist or coach lasts way longer than the career of an athlete. Moreover, there’s more space for creativity and imagination in an artistic performance career, and that attracts many people as well.
Presently, Jin Roh has its own props workshop and sewing workshop, where our costume designers make original costumes.
The biggest inspiration for Roman while creating his circus was «Cirque du Soleil» – the first truly unconventional and large-scale project in the sphere of circus art.
So far, Jin Roh remains the only large circus theatre in Ukraine of its kind. Nevertheless, these days there are a number of smaller groups coming up with a very unique, fresh and well-directed material:
— In terms of their creativity, two projects in Ukraine that stand out to me right now are the “Bingo” troupe and the Kyiv Circus Academy. There are also several interesting and influential projects going on in Dnipro, Kharkiv, and Lviv. At Jin Roh we’re striving to create something fundamentally different. Competition is what evokes this uniqueness. Personally, I`ve learned a lot from the “Todes” studio for instance. I constantly acquire new knowledge and look for new ideas to inspire my team to experiment.
Whenever possible, Roman accompanies the circus on tour. He wants to be reliable and support his colleagues in any stressful or difficult moments that may arise.
This project is my baby. My life and the lives of many people are built around Jin Roh. I live for my work, I try to take part in a bit of everything that goes on here – from sewing costumes to managing logistics. Little drops of water make a mighty ocean. My task is to make the group fall in love with every show.
Within the studio, there is an acrobatic and dance school for children which has nearly 200 pupils. A number of the alumni from this program stay with Jin Roh afterwards and the rest go outside the region and even abroad in search of further career development. We are very supportive of their choices.
Jin Roh teaches children how to overcome their fears and define their vision of the future by themselves. We impose no pressure on them unlike parents or usual schools do:
— Sometimes parents tend to impose their own ambitions onto their children. Usually, that breaks them down.
Those who overcome all the challenges carry on and follow their dreams with the support of coaches:
— Everyone gets a little lazy sometimes and so you need a person to push you forward. As coaches, we have to cheer students on and not let them give up on the first try. I don`t consider strict, traditional pedagogy to be the right method to do so, criticism simply cuts the wings off.
Besides the outside support a coach can give, what the student feels inside and how they act upon that is also crucial in determining what kind of path they forge. Whether they can empower themselves with enough motivation to tame the wild beast that is a career in circus art:
You have to find the right approach for each person. I happened to meet really talented people with a lack of enthusiasm and I’ve also met less talented, but extremely hardworking and goal-oriented people. The latter ones are more likely to succeed. Nevertheless, we have faith in each of them whatever happens. Occasionally life gives turning points which make people realize whom they want to be after all.
Roman has no idea how to sit back and rest in a theatre. Instead of enjoying the play like everyone else does he pays attention to every single detail: dancer`s pose, illumination, decorations etc. It`s an endless process of generating new ideas for further projects.
The studio’s schedule for the next few months is already full of tours and flights. In December they have a show in Mykolayiv, then to Beirut for Christmas, Argentina in January, Australia in February and New Zealand in April.
The superpower of Jin Roh lies first and foremost with the audience:
To energize the audience and then to receive that energy back, – that`s what you call euphoria. The work of an artist feels truly meaningful when he observes the entire audience standing up and applauding. If at least one spectator leaves the show with the desire of doing good and strong deeds, it means that we`ve done a great job.